Hey there oily dudes! Today I am going to write a post that, to be honest, I have been trying to work out for a while. You see, in this post I am going to discuss the minefield that is the consumption of essential oil. I say “minefield” as with a controversial topic such as essential oils there are the believers and non-believers of course. Research is limited and whether they actually work or not is something that is always open to great debate. But when you ask of “can you eat essential oils?”, even the believers/users cannot reach agreement.
Where do I stand?
Well as you know, I am a firm, if not still a little skeptical, user of essential oils for many things such as soothing sore muscles, shaving and of course, a little diffuser driven stress relief. I do not however put them in my food or drink. I never have and am not sure if I will in the future. But, as usual, I have tried to write from experience so I have been dabbling in this area too…
What does research tell us?
The main reason that I was struggling to work out how to write this post was that I just got so bogged down in the research. I couldn’t see the proverbial forest for the trees. I mean, the only oils I had considered eating were the types pictured above. There is so much written about this topic. At times with so much venom that it was really hard to decipher. Those in the “for” column say that they have never felt better. And those against will tell you essential oils are poisonous and should be avoided at all costs.
The major companies, Young Living and DoTerra, publish recipes for their oils in everything from drinks, cooking, to medicinal interventions. Add 1 drop of cinnamon here and 1 drop of lemon to an Indian Curry, etc. I found recipes indicating to put 2 drops of XYZ oil into a pill capsule and swallow each day to assist with XYZ.
I can tell you that in all my research, almost without fail, whenever I look for things to do with a particular type of essential oil (even the ‘hot‘ oils), I will find some sort of ingestion use within the page. Now, in all due respect to the ‘yessers’ and the ‘noers’, many give good arguments which are highly emotional and quite persuasive, but with little scientific fact. So, in an attempt to leave the emotion at the door, I tried to find some research.
What did I find?
Well as usual, not much…
- There are a lot of sites that infer that they have scientific backup. Then they tend to provide links to a doctor who has written for the national aromatherapy foundation of xxx.
- There are a number of papers on the Pubmed site that have conducted studies that include the consumption of essential oils… Many outline the need for much further study or have been undertaken on mice. The only one I could find with some traction is in regards to peppermint essential oil for IBS. However I also found on a number of sites that peppermint can cause respiratory inflammation. It IS a strong oil.
- WebMD does have a few articles written by doctors. Almost all suggested steering clear of consumption of essential oils.
To be honest, this does sort of sit in with my findings when researching the benefits of essential oils for other purposes such as use on the skin or via a diffuser. Opponents will say is still ingesting oils into the body. And proponents will argue that just because it is not fully researched that it does not mean it is not true.
Are essential oils considered safe for consumption?
The research really does not give us a true measure to evaluate if essential oils are safe for consumption. So let’s see what the governing bodies say:
The U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) – lists essential oils under the banner of Substances generally recognized as safe (Part 182, Subpart A, Sec 182.20). There is a big list there but not all oils are on it. I could not find anything where it states any that are not considered safe.
The Australian Department of Health Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) – lists essential oils as complimentary medicine products. They “have not been subjected to the pre-registration evaluation of efficacy and adverse effects required for pharmaceuticals”. There are checks in place however to ensure they conform with statutory requirements such as child safety and poisons standards. I could not find any direct wording that stated that they were safe for consumption. I will of course update this page if I find it.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency – makes no reference to the safety of essential oils consumption. This Agency explicitly lists essential oils as an exception from its list of permitted food additives.
Note: This is the information I found with some pretty extensive searching. However please comment below if you know of any pages within these agencies that outline information different to that which I have reported here.
How did I try to eat essential oils?
As usual, I always try to speak to my posts from a place of experience. So I did a little mansperimentation. Not a lot admittedly, but this is what I tried:
- Put 1 drop of Lemon into my cold water bottle (800ml bottle)
- I cooked a beef spaghetti bolognese sauce with 2 drops each of Rosemary and Oregano. I was going to use Basil as well but couldn’t bring myself to do so after I smelled it.
What were the results?
Ok, I am just going to be honest here. I am not feeling it. The lemon water tasted ‘processed’ to me. It smelled like lemon and the taste was certainly there but I just didn’t love it. I will say here that my wife does drink this daily. She is of the firm belief that it helps her not feel as hungry in the mornings. It is also very refreshing, her words not mine… haha.
As for the spaghetti sauce, I didn’t actually mention that I was doing my little mansperiment when I cooked it. Neither my wife nor son noticed. I ‘thought’ I could taste a difference but I am not sure I could. There was a hint of aroma, especially from the oregano but not in the taste. I also missed the fresh herbs that I normally use.
My final verdict: I could not see enough in my admittedly short mansperimentation to make me want to change my approach here. At the end of the day my philosophy is that if you want lemon in your drink, or rosemary or other herbs in your food, then use the real thing.
Note: I fed this to my son without thinking. As I am really not an advocate of feeding essential oils to kids but as a once off, I don’t think there is any harm done.
So there you have it, I am not totally sure that I have answered any questions here. Except, maybe, the usual results that there is not a lot of real, concrete proof into the safety of consuming essential oils. I do know that I am not really an advocate and tend to avoid reference to eating or drinking them in my posts. That said, I do not have any real proof that I shouldn’t be doing it either. So for me it is a pure taste and lifestyle preference, as is my use of oils for other purposes in the first place.
How do you feel about the subject (he asks with some trepidation haha)? Please comment below and I will do my best to respond.
Until next time, and as always
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My name is Paul and I live on the east coast of Australia with my wife and six year old son. I also have 19 and 23 year old daughters. I am an ex government and bank worker who took a bit of a sea change and opened my own business by the beach with my amazing wife. If you can do it, try it. You will never look back. You want to know more about me, read my About Me page